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Unequal pay among genders -4/17/2014, 10:25 AM

Fighting for Kansas veterans -4/17/2014, 10:25 AM

School reductions -4/17/2014, 10:25 AM

Dress for safety -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

Does losing due process create inadequacies? -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

Hate crimes -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

On with the prom -4/15/2014, 8:57 AM

Newman proud to be in western Kansas -4/14/2014, 8:57 AM

Waiting on revenue estimates -4/13/2014, 8:57 AM

Wake up, people, and see the danger we’re in -4/13/2014, 12:03 PM

Patronizing paychecks -4/13/2014, 12:03 PM

Stripping of teachers’ due process worrisome -4/13/2014, 6:11 AM

The Kansas Ministry of Truth -4/13/2014, 6:14 AM

Letterman, Hillary and Jeb: 21st Century symbols -4/13/2014, 6:10 AM

Expensive school bill -4/13/2014, 6:12 AM

How to assist evil -4/11/2014, 9:15 AM

Taxing life away -4/11/2014, 9:12 AM

Lying about Obamacare -4/11/2014, 9:17 AM

The talk radio party? -4/10/2014, 11:04 AM

Term limits -4/10/2014, 11:06 AM

Let's do what we do best -4/10/2014, 11:05 AM

Satisfying the court -4/9/2014, 10:45 AM

Late-night funding fight -4/9/2014, 10:44 AM

‘Farmland’ — art is life on screen -4/9/2014, 10:45 AM

Tradition not changing -4/8/2014, 12:02 PM

Flat as a pancake -4/8/2014, 11:22 AM

Willing to take a bet -4/8/2014, 11:24 AM

Exposure to violence threatens children’s future -4/8/2014, 11:23 AM

Battling MS -4/7/2014, 8:58 AM

Why Renewable Fuel Standard matters -4/7/2014, 9:23 AM

Rites and wrongs of spring -4/7/2014, 9:23 AM

Coming to terms with Brownback -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

Are 'religious viewpoint' laws needed in schools? -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

School non-funding -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

Sex and race equality -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Rest of the story -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

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Federal fine -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

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School funding battle continues -4/2/2014, 9:59 AM

Watching for the flip-floppers -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Will Hays enter the 21st century? -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Tax breaks -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Hobby Lobby case a slippery slope -3/31/2014, 9:16 AM

Happy birthday, Gloria -3/31/2014, 9:16 AM

Unequal voting -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Protecting the pollinators -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Parties, politicians and seeking an advantage -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Healthy aging -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Threatened chicken -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

As temperatures rise, pay attention to stored grain -3/30/2014, 3:49 PM

Bizarre arguments and behavior -3/28/2014, 10:06 AM

In your dreams -3/28/2014, 10:06 AM

Against the wind -3/28/2014, 10:05 AM

Discovering the salt of the earth -3/28/2014, 10:05 AM

Entrepreneurship key to economic growth -3/27/2014, 8:36 AM

Kansas goes Kremlin with arrests, secrecy -3/27/2014, 8:36 AM

Get ready for Arbor Day -3/26/2014, 2:03 PM

Reading between the lines -3/26/2014, 2:02 PM

Switching parties -3/26/2014, 1:53 PM

Putting a price tag on damages -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Privately piercing, serious sacrifice -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Autism bill passes House -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

United stance -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Legislative session getting down to the end -3/25/2014, 10:12 AM

Taxation bill involving livestock successful -3/25/2014, 10:12 AM

STARBASE Day hits Topeka -3/24/2014, 10:13 AM

Judging based on accomplishments -3/24/2014, 10:14 AM

Who speaks for the voiceless? -3/24/2014, 10:14 AM

Fly Hays -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

Learning from the candidates -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

hedy -3/21/2014, 1:12 PM

-3/20/2014, 9:59 AM

Fred Phelps -3/20/2014, 9:59 AM

Is There Wage Stagnation? -3/20/2014, 9:58 AM

Cost of living, wages don't add up -3/20/2014, 4:01 PM

Legislative proposal raises questions -3/20/2014, 4:01 PM

No vote on war -3/19/2014, 3:32 PM

Wonder of St. Fidelis -3/19/2014, 4:01 PM

Protein for breakfast -3/19/2014, 2:58 PM

A pointed comment on guns -3/19/2014, 8:57 AM

Campaign madness -3/19/2014, 2:58 PM

Counting the cost of Kansas' Medicaid expansion -3/18/2014, 9:26 AM

Tax-relief spells a sure vote -3/18/2014, 9:26 AM

Tourney madness -3/18/2014, 9:25 AM

St. Patrick's Day -- The value of Irish humor -3/16/2014, 5:44 PM

Not all things are bad -3/16/2014, 5:44 PM

Supreme Court takes Legislature to school -3/16/2014, 5:43 PM

Parochial education -3/16/2014, 5:43 PM

Governed by rules, not men -3/14/2014, 10:00 AM

More guns: Merrier or scarier? -3/14/2014, 10:00 AM

The war on women -3/13/2014, 9:51 AM

Labeling the education can -3/13/2014, 9:51 AM

Taking exception -3/12/2014, 2:03 PM

Choose wisely in today's society -3/12/2014, 2:02 PM

Budget concerns -3/12/2014, 2:01 PM

Courting judicial changes -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

House now on home stretch -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

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SPOTLIGHT
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Who sets the 2014 Kansas agenda?

Published on -1/19/2014, 8:12 AM

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This past Wednesday, Gov. Sam Brownback laid out his state policy agenda in his State of the State address. Given our conservative Republican governor paired with a similar Legislature, one might reasonably assume the chief executive truly can set the table for the upcoming session.

For the first three years of the Brownback Administration, this essentially was true, albeit with the backing of the Kansas Chamber, Americans for Prosperity and various anti-abortion advocates.

But 2014 might tell a different, more complicated story, in part due to the governor's substantial policy successes to date. For example, income taxes have been slashed and eliminated for many entities. This means revenues have dropped sharply, putting pressure on many state programs, from K-12 education to corrections.

Thus, although the governor might desire to placate pro-education constituents by proposing statewide all-day kindergarten, he immediately runs into funding problems, opposition from many GOP legislators and questions as to why he doesn't propose restoring some previous cuts to schools.

But severe, self-imposed fiscal constraints represent merely one limitation on Brownback's ability to set the agenda.

The most important contending force, by far, is the Kansas Supreme Court, which once again might require the state to fully fund its constitutional public education obligations. The agenda problems are two-fold. First comes the question of funding the formula, perhaps by playing games with what constitutes educational spending (Busing? Pensions?).

Second, and more profoundly, any court ruling calling for substantial funding likely will lead to a constitutional crisis, given neither the governor nor the Legislature seems willing to comply. In his State of the State address, Brownback explicitly warned the court, with its members a few feet away, to stay away from spending mandates. Although this approach plays well -- really well -- with his conservative base, a significant confrontation with the court presents serious political problems for a sitting governor, if he is seen as nullifying the legitimate ruling of a co-equal branch of government.

Indeed, in 2014 the political implications of setting the policy agenda might well trump the policy effects. If school finance is the 800-pound gorilla in the room this year, Democratic House Minority Leader Paul Davis's vigorous and well-funded campaign for governor must rank as at least a 600-pound one.

Given the conservative bent of the Kansas electorate during the past two elections, along with the continuing, profound dislike of President Barack Obama and his health care reforms, a formidable challenge to the governor might seem unlikely. But various polls, healthy fundraising and increasing national recognition demonstrate real potential for a Davis upset.

In turn, such a political context might place Brownback at odds with other conservatives. For example, Kansas hospitals and others are prodding the governor to sign on to proposals, adopted in other states, to use Medicaid funds for insuring more Kansans. So far, Brownback has shown little inclination to do this, but a close race might change his mind -- much to the dismay of his strongest supporters on the right.

Likewise, the Kansas Chamber has indicated it wants to review the requirement that 20 percent of the state's energy production come from renewable sources by 2020. And Kris Kobach presents an entire array of unnecessary voter registration issues, which the governor continues to sidestep like a farmer in a field of fresh cow pies.

In large part, Brownback's lack of control over the state's agenda means Kansans might have a fascinating legislative session to observe this spring. With an unexpectedly strong gubernatorial candidate heading up the House minority and a Supreme Court perhaps ready to lay down the gauntlet on school finance, the governor faces a far different set of challenges than he did in the past three years.

Kansans will get a chance to see how well he can play defense, as he keeps his eye on the November elections.

Burdett Loomis is a professor of political science at the University of Kansas.

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